Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, 2024

Tour Dates: 15th October – 25th November, 2024

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg was established by Boris Eifman in 1977 (the original name of the company was Leningrad New Ballet).

Tour Dates
  • 15th October – 25th November, 2024


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg was established by Boris Eifman in 1977 (the original name of the company was Leningrad New Ballet). The concept of the New Ballet was above and beyond innovative for its time: from the very beginning the vision was to develop it as an experimental laboratory, a ballet theatre of one choreographer.

The Company's first performances, such as Two-Voice and Boomerang, had immediate success and prompted both strong interest of the audience and a lively discussion among ballet critics who recognised the development of a new trend in Russian ballet art. However, proponents of the traditional ballet school were rather reluctant to acknowledge the young choreographer's influence. The novelty of Eifman's approach to choice of literary basis and music for his productions, as well as the audacity of the body movement vocabulary earned him the reputation of a “dissident in choreography” that stayed with Eifman for a long time.

In the late 1970s – early 1980s the Company developed its own approach to shaping of the repertoire. The playbill included a growing number of productions based on the gems of classical literature. The choreographer worked with his company, noted for their dance intellect, to explore new genres. New productions: The Idiot, The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro, The Legend, The Twelfth Night, The Duel, Master and Margarita, Murderers and others – were distinguished by strikingly sharp choreographic patterns which aimed to express the height of passion experienced by the ballets' characters.

Today ballet enthusiasts in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia admire productions of the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Red Giselle, Russian Hamlet, Anna Karenina, Eugene Onegin, Rodin, Her Eternal Idol, Beyond Sin, Requiem, Up & Down, Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA, The Pygmalion Effect, Molière Passion, or The Mask of Don Juan, The Seagull. A Ballet Story. These widely acclaimed works not only represent the highest level of artistic achievement in Russian contemporary ballet but also introduce international audiences to the spiritual heritage of Russia and the best of world culture – the inspiration behind the work of the choreographer and his dancers.

For several decades Eifman Ballet enjoyed success when performing in top venues across the globe. The Company's ability to immerse their audiences into the boundless world of human passion, to build a strong spiritual bond, to amaze and sometimes overwhelm them by the intensity and energy of its plastique, defined and ensured its recognition.

Boris Eifman is not just a choreographer; he is very much a philosopher. He is deeply concerned about the issues of today and challenged by the mystique of creativity. Eifman speaks directly to his audience about most complex and dramatic aspects of human existence. He defines the genre as “psychological ballet”. The New York Times calls Boris Eifman the leader among living choreographers: “The ballet world in search of a major choreographer need search no more. He is Boris Eifman.”

The Company is distinguished by its brilliant technique, exceptional commitment and intellectual interpretation. Its leading dancers, top of the range ballet professionals, recognised for their achievements both nationally and internationally, including prestigious theatre awards Golden Mask and Golden Soffit and prizes of the President and Government of Russia, implement Boris Eifman's inspirational ideas. Among them are Maria Abashova, Lyubov Andreyeva, Dmitry Fisher, Oleg Gabyshev, Sergey Volobuev and others.

2011 marked an important development for the Company when the Government of St. Petersburg decided to commence construction of the Boris Eifman Dance Academy at the initiative of the renowned choreographer. The school opened its doors for the first academic year in September 2013. In 2019 the adjacent Dance Academy Theatre, unique St. Petersburg venue that will host dance festivals, contests and performances, was opened.

The Boris Eifman Palace of Dance, envisioned to become one of the world's centres of choreographic art, is due to open in St. Petersburg in the near future. It will not only be the home for the Eifman Ballet but will also provide space and facilities to other companies and performers representing different styles and genres of dance.

Boris Eifman's vision and mission is to create unique repertoire of ballet productions, which stems from the best examples of Russian psychological theatre, to explore innovative forms of choreography of the XXI century and broaden the boundaries of ballet art.storytelling.

Artistic Director: Boris Eifman

Boris Eifman, the founder and creator of his own theatre, his own style, and his own ballet universe, who is called “one of the leading choreographers in the world” and an “amazing magician of the theatre”, was born in 1946 in Siberia, and from early childhood he wanted to express his feelings and his thoughts in body language, in dance. He himself would later say, “For me, ballet is more than a profession. It is a means of existence, my mission on this earth. Using its resources, I am compelled to convey what is given to me from on high. Most likely, I would simply suffocate on my emotions if I didn't have the possibility of expressing them through art. For me, choreography is art that is deeply religious, in the broadest sense of the word.”

The innate sense of movement and the “instinct to compose” brought him to the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied in the Choreography Department, and then to the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, where he worked for ten years as a choreographer, composing new works for student performances. Finally, in 1977, he formed his own ballet ensemble. This is the moment when the Eifman story began, as, with his talent, with his blood and sweat, with his energy, dedicating himself a full twenty four hours a day, he began to create his own theatre.

Eifman brilliantly combined cutting-edge achievements in the world of ballet with what he learned in the academic school of classical Russian choreography, to which he traces his roots. “What I do can be called the dance of emotions, free dance, a new language, in which classical ballet, modern dance, ecstatic impulses and many other things are interwoven…,” he said at the time. His dancers, who had an exclusively academic grounding, had to acquire a new vocabulary of body movement. It was a completely different kind of choreography, whose fundamental principle came into being as the troupe was formed by Eifman.

In the course of time, his ballet ensemble became a ballet theatre, and this change in names reflects the essential formula of Eifman's creative method. As an artist whose natural inclination is toward the theatre, he is interested in choreographing not only variations of movement but also transparent internal actions as well as one or another overriding idea connected with a performance. “I create ballets of a different kind, where self-expression becomes the subject and in which there is drama, philosophy, characters and an idea. And I am sure that this is the ballet of the future. Believe me, many of my young colleagues will follow the road that I have taken. This road leads eventually to man.”

It's a man who's viewed by Eifman as the main subject and interest of art that has power over people's hearts and is capable of addressing the soul. For Eifman, ballet is a means of contemplation, or, as he puts it, an “opportunity, through movement, not only to express some sort of form and line, but to convey a flood of emotions, energy, ideas…”

A distinct feature of Eifman's theatrе, its trademark, is that almost all of his performances have a plot and, often, a literary source. This corresponds fully to his artistic credo: “I am not saying that I don't concern myself with the choreographic text itself and its level, as well as the degree of imagination or the perfected form… But if I need a literary base, it means that I am looking for an opportunity to plunge into some sort of realm, one that is familiar to me and to my audience, and, in the familiar, I try to discover and reveal the unexplored…”

It is this penetration into the realm of the unexplored – in the choreography and in the sphere of ideas – that is arguably the hallmark of Boris Eifman. When he turns to the literary works, or to the stories of life of Moliere, Paul I (the Emperor of Russia), Tchaikovsky or Rodin, Eifman always sees nuances that no one else has noticed, he finds that which is capable of astonishing, he detects new meanings. In visual metaphors of movement, that can be compared to a figurative cipher of dreams, in which hazy fantasies and impulses take on visual forms, Eifman externalizes what is at the heart of a literary text or of an artist's life history. Eifman's theatre is often called a psychological one. His ballets can be named plastic psychoanalysis, in the course of which the psychological depth of the characters and the stories – no matter fictional or real – is being disclosed.

When Eifman turns to the works of great writers or to the lives of geniuses and translates them into the language of ballet, this is immersion, through the physical, in the psychic, through the body, in the soul, through words, in ideas. His unique lexicon and conceptual, authorial interpretations are a breakthrough into that fantastic dimension where the boundlessness of inner worlds comes to life.

(Text by Tatiana Boborykina)

Anna Karenina A ballet by Boris Eifman

Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy Music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky Sets: Zinovy Margolin Costumes: Vyacheslav Okunev Light: Gleb Filshtinsky Premiere: March 31, 2005

Boris Eifman's ballet Anna Karenina is a true burst of inner psychological energy and is amazingly precise in delivering emotional impact upon its viewers. By setting aside all secondary storylines in Leo Tolstoy's novel, the choreographer focused on the love triangle “Anna – Karenin – Vronsky”.

Using dance language, Boris Eifman in his ballet managed to portray the drama of a woman being reborn. According to the choreographer, it is the love passion, the “basic instinct” which has led the heroine to the breach of the then current norms of social morality, killed motherly love in Anna Karenina and destroyed her inner world. Being so completely consumed and crushed by passion, a woman is ready for any sacrifice.

The choreographer says that his ballet speaks not of previous times but of today: the timeless emotional content of the performance and obvious parallels to reality can't leave the contemporary viewer indifferent. The brilliant technical mastery of the Company's dancers and Boris Eifman's astounding choreography present to us in a remarkably impressive way all the aspects and peripeteias of the Tolstoy's novel.

“Ballet is a very specific realm where psychological drama is reenacted and fulfilled; it is an opportunity to get an insight into the subconscious. Every new production is a search for the unknown.

The Anna Karenina novel by Tolstoy has always been the object of my keen interest. While reading Tolstoy, one can see how fully and intimately the author understands the inner world and psychology of his heroes, how keenly and precisely he describes the life in Russia. In the novel one will be immersed into the psychological world of the chief character and also a psycho-erotic interpretation of her personality. Even in our contemporary literature we won't find similar passions, metamorphoses and phantasmagoria. All this has become the gist and essence of my choreographic reflections upon the book.

The measured, regular life of the Karenin family – the husband's public service, the strict high society conventions – produced an illusion that harmony and peace reign there. Anna's passionate love for Vronsky destroyed the “matter of course” in their existence. Sincerity of the lovers' feelings was doubted and rejected, their frankness was feared. Karenin's hypocrisy was acceptable to everyone but Anna. She preferred the all-absorbing love for Vronsky to mother's duties regarding her son. And thus she doomed herself to lead the life of an outcast. She saw no pleasure in traveling or in habitual high society entertainments. There was a feeling that a woman was tragically constrained by a sensual relationship with a man. This sort of dependence – as any other one – brings pain and suffering. Anna committed suicide to set herself free, to end her dreadful and agonizing life.

For me Anna was sort of a “shape shifter” because two persons lived within her: externally she was known to her husband Karenin, to her son and to everyone around as a high society lady. The other one was a woman immersed into the world of passions.

What is a more important goal in life: to maintain the conventional illusion of existing harmony between duty and feelings, or surrender to a sincere passion?.. Do we have the right to destroy our family, to deprive a child of his mother's care just for the sake of what our flesh lusts for?..

All these questions haunted Tolstoy in his times, and we can't avoid thinking them over again and again today. But answers are still far-off! What remains there is only our longing to be understood both in our life and death…”

Boris Eifman

Act 1

The scene opens with Anna Karenina in the heart of her family in St. Petersburg. At a high society ball, Anna meets a dashing young officer Count Vronsky. In the Karenin household there is marital discord. Anna and Vronsky meet again at the horse races, they fall deeply in love. Anna's life becomes difficult as gossip and rumours start to spread about the Karenins' relationship. At a long-awaited assignation passion overcomes the lovers' rational thoughts. After a confrontation with Karenin Anna is overcome with dark thoughts and premonitions. The married couple makes a reconciliation.

Act 2

Vronsky is at his officers' club. Following a meeting at the Karenins' home Anna leaves her husband. At a Carnival in Venice. The affection between Anna and Vronsky begins to break down. In St. Petersburg high society turns its back on Anna. She becomes shunned and isolated. In an opium induced state of mind, Anna is in the grip of visions and fantasies. Final despair. Anna's suicide.

Russian Hamlet
A ballet by Boris Eifman

Music: Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Mahler Sets and costumes: Vyacheslav Okunev Light: Alexander Sivaev, Boris Eifman

Premiere: June 24, 1999 Revised: April 26, 2017

In his performance, the choreographer focused on the figure of Paul I – one of the most mysterious and contradictory characters in Russian history. Boris Eifman restricted the chronological scope of the production to Paul's life as the heir to the throne and brilliantly portrayed the tragic confrontation between this extraordinary and fragile personality and the hostile world built on violence, treachery and lies.

During the years of its active stage life, the ballet was performed with incredible success in the USA, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, China, South Korea, Argentina and many other countries. “With so many new solutions and artistic metaphors, with such levels of emotional intensity, this time Eifman outperformed himself, as he really has no one to compete with. Two leading ballet critics Anna Kisselgoff and Clive Barnes unanimously gave him precedence in modern ballet,” wrote well-known journalist Bella Yezerskaya after watching Russian Hamlet. The New York Times in the review of the production said that Boris Eifman “has a way with electrifying images and theatrical fantasies that other choreographers do not.” In 2012 the ballet was taken out the repertoire.

In the jubilee 40th season of Eifman Ballet, Boris Eifman turns to Russian Hamlet again as part of the trend in which he revives his famous earlier productions. He re-interprets the choreographic score to make it even more inventive, refined and emotionally intensive while the plot of the ballet remains essentially unchanged.

The life of Prince Paul, afterwards Paul I of Russia, bears a striking resemblance to that of Prince Hamlet; it is enigmatic in more than one aspect and full of mystical omens. Born with a happy and positive attitude, brilliantly educated, he was keen to prepare himself to serve his country. However, the assassination of his father, Emperor Peter III, his mother's dislike, for Empress Catherine II distrusted her own son and heir, the environment of constant surveillance, intrigue, apprehension and humiliation was what eventually pushed Paul into the illusory world of fantasy and delusion, leading to mania of persecution and spiritual isolation. From the days of his childhood he was prone to mysticism (Paul's story of meeting the ghost of Emperor Peter the Great has been documented), and he presaged his own tragic end; this awareness made him passionately strive for power to secure time to embed his reforms for the benefit of Russia. His efforts not appreciated, he was cruelly assassinated by the court nobility and cursed by posterity.

The hero of our ballet is Prince Paul in his younger years. We depict him in the period when he was full of bright ideas, far-reaching ambitions, and about to encounter the first tragic turns in his life. In this ballet we search for an answer to Hamlet's eternal dilemma: “To be, or not to be?”.

Boris Eifman


Russia during the reign of Peter III. Catherine, the Emperor's wife, is humiliated by the drunken debauchery of her unloved husband. Her Court Favorite aids her in staging a coup against the Emperor. Young Prince Paul becomes an involuntary witness to the assassination of his father.

Act 1

We are in the chambers of the Royal Palace. Paul is lonely among hypocritical courtiers, in the atmosphere of meaningless fuss of the maids, gossip and intrigue. The Empress, his mother is inaccessible, always shielded by her Favorite. Catherine is not prepared to share her power. She keeps her son away from the affairs of state. The Empress comes to a decision that an early marriage might divert the Heir from any contemplation of succeeding to the throne.

Paul is happy with his wife, but she is filled with ambitious plans – she puts pressure on her husband to contest his right for the throne of Russia. The Empress discovers the young bride's intentions. Lies and treachery are commonplace at court. Catherine's next scheme destroys the Heir's happy life in marriage following betrayal of his wife, who becomes the Favorite's prey. But even that is not enough: the death of his beloved is the price he pays for pursuit of the throne.

Act 2

The labyrinths of the Royal Palace frighten Paul with cold hostility and take away the hope of breaking free from the power of the Empress. The Heir dreams of glorious military victories. But this is just an illusion of power.

In his reminiscences Paul sees his dead wife, his childhood, his murdered father.

The masquerade ball, presided over by the Empress, grows into an orgy. Paul invites Catherine to a theatrical performance. The actors, instructed by the Heir, play the scene of the murder of the king by his unfaithful wife and her lover. The Empress, who recognizes the allusion to her participation in the conspiracy, is furious. Paul for the first time finds strength to stand up to his mother.

The Favorite is in turmoil. With his caresses he tries to reclaim the Empress' affection but in vain – he served his purpose.

The Ghost of the Heir's father urges Paul to retaliate. In his imagination the Heir takes the longed for revenge: the Favorite dies in the arms of the phantom of the king he murdered. In the whirlwind of images Paul sees the Empress. Now it is her turn, he only has to wave his sword… but the Heir cannot deal a deadly blow to his mother.

The Empress' price for the throne is complete spiritual isolation. Fear of death fills her soul.

Even dreams about ascension to the throne do not bring joy to Paul. He foresees the fatal ending of his short-lived rule. The Heir is not destined to attain the glory of his mother. And Paul understands: he is only a prisoner of his dreams, a reflection of his own anxious phantasmagoria.

“Love him or hate him, Mr. Eifman stimulates and provokes.” “Mr. Eifman has a way with electrifying images and theatrical fantasies… that other choreographers do not.”

- Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times

“Boris Eifman's “Russian Hamlet” is too much. It is excessive, shamelessly theatrical, torrid, sexy and over the top. It is also very beautiful. It could only have come from Russia and it is not to be missed.”

- Octavio Roca, San Francisco Chronicle

“…Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg fielded a new generation of Russian stars in this consummately audacious neo-Expressionist dance-drama, supporting Eifman's talent for grand-scale pictorial splendor with performances of remarkable virtuosity, passion and depth.”

- Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times